As we all may know, children develop differently and at different rates, but how we parent them also makes a huge impact on their development. Let me share with you ten simple ways to help your child increase his/her speech fluency in shaa Allah. I am not a speech therapist; I speak strictly from a proven experience with my child, alhamdulillah.
Before I get into it, allow me to first remind you that in whatever you plan on doing, make pure intentions and du’a (supplication) your first step. Nothing happens without the will of Allah, and Allah is the One who answers supplications as He said in Surah Al Baqarah (2:186), interpretation of the meaning: “And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.”
Start reading to your child from the cradle, or even before he/she is born. Babies love listening to their parents, so use this opportunity to read a lot. Surely, the best form of reading is reading the Qur’an. Not only would this benefit your child by being exposed to the Words of Allah very early, he/she would gain from the barakah (blessing) of listening to the Qur’an; and of course, you would get rewarded in shaa Allah. We are all in need of Allah’s mercy and blessings, so there’s no better way to start your journey.
The second form of reading is reading children short story books and first word books (with pictures) that teach the names of different items around the house, outdoor, and more. As your children grow up, introduce books with more words, but don’t worry if they do not fully understand. You’ll later be amazed at how much children absorb, even when we think they may not know what’s going on. Just make the reading fun, and explain the more complex parts if you must. Allow them to be challenged without making it frustrating. I started reading non-fiction books to my child from a very young age, but because I made the reading fun and engaging, she loved it! Ask simple question, play little games, and be silly if that would help. Before you know it, he/she will start flipping pages of books, pretending to be reading.
- Talk normally
Just because your child doesn’t yet talk doesn’t mean you should use ‘baby codes’ when talking to him/her. You’re teaching him/her to talk, so use real words! Do NOT blabber; talk as if you’re talking to someone who understands well. Again, your child is learning to speak by hearing you, so set a good example from the beginning.
- Make eye contact when speaking
When talking to your child, try to always make eye contact. Allow him/her to hear you clearly and know that you’re present.
- Show interest and consideration
Don’t just make eye contact while not seeming interested in what he/she is saying. I believe children can easily feel when they aren’t given attention or consideration. Smile, make different facial expressions, show hand gestures, and anything that you believe would show that you are interested and care.
When children start saying their first words, it is important for them to know that what they say matters. Listen to them and pay special attention, even if what you hear makes no sense.
- Don’t correct mistakes
Children first absorb information before repeating. When they start speaking, they make lots of mistakes; it is part of the learning process. Try not to directly correct them. Mistakes will often happen, and constantly correcting them may destroy their confidence. Instead, try repeating what they say, with the correct grammatical order. An example would be if Faatimah says, “Ahmad have a blue hat!” You may respond while showing full interest by saying, “You’re right! Ahmad has a blue hat!” See what I did there? It’s an indirect and subtle form of correcting. Children are very attentive, so they will most likely notice the change, and repeat it right away or next time. Remember, children learn how to talk by imitating what they hear. So, they believe that the way you speak is the correct and best way of speaking. Also, when your child speaks with incomplete sentences, just repeat the sentence by adding the missing words. Example: Child says, “Shoe big!” You may respond by saying, “Wow! The shoe is big!”
- Limit screen time
I’m sure we’ve all heard this at some point. Don’t let the TV/phone/tablet teach your children how to speak. The last thing you want is for your children to be passive learners. Besides, the television may actually do the reverse of what you’re trying to achieve. Children need interaction (active learning) to improve their language skills.
- Have conversations and tell stories
Talk to your child as if you’re friends. Share stories, explain what you do, ask questions, talk about your day, and have fun while doing it. If you don’t understand some of the things he/she says at any given point, don’t be afraid to gently ask. When I didn’t understand what my daughter meant sometimes, I used words that I did understand, made an overall guess, and asked a question. Example: If she said, “I ouch floor” while holding her harm, my question could have been, “You hurt your arm on the floor?” The next time something similar happened, she knew how to properly formulate the sentence, or at least better than previously.
- Introduce a second language
Many people believe that learning multiple languages at a very young age delays a child’s speech fluency. That hasn’t been my experience at all. It may be true for some, but I can only speak from experience. Exposing my daughter to multiple languages helped her speak better, and with more confidence. She was able to pronounce different letters and words that did not exist in the other language (and vice versa). And later down the line, speaking fluently in all the languages (and additional languages) may be much easier in shaa Allah.
Always encourage your children when they speak. Even when you don’t understand what they say, try not to make it too obvious. Gently ask, guess sometimes, and always show interest while you’re at it. Play games such as “I spot a big blue ball” and ask them to find it. When your children manage to tell you a short story, show happiness and let them know how proud you are of them. Always be encouraging. Do not pressure your child if things don’t turn out as you envisioned them. Remember that every child develops at different rates. If he/she is healthy and happy, that’s all that matters. Just do your best, and rely on Allah. “…And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” Surah Al Imraan 3:159
I’m sure there are many more ways to help with speech development, if you know of more, please share in the comments.